Posted at: 07/26/2013 6:15 PM
By: Associated Press
Four more upstate New York prisons will close next year in response the shrinking number of inmates, corrections officials announced Friday.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced plans to close the minimum-security Monterey Shock facility in Schuyler County on July 26, 2014, along with three medium-security facilities: Butler in Wayne County, Chateaugay in Franklin County and Mt. McGregor in Saratoga County.
State officials cited a dramatic reduction in drug offenders for closing those prisons, each of which is well under maximum capacity.
The state operates 60 prisons.
New York has closed seven prisons since 2011 and will close two more in September as the number of inmates continues to dwindle. The inmate population has dropped to about 54,600 after peaking in 1999 at 72,584 under Draconian Rockefeller-era drug laws. Those mandatory sentencing guidelines were relaxed amid a drop in state crime rate over the past 10 years.
The closures are expected to save the state $30 million a year. Corrections spokesman Thomas Mailey said the goal is to avoid layoffs by offering employees jobs at other facilities over the next year.
Though the closures have been praised by budget hawks, they have drawn fire from the union representing state corrections officers. On Friday, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association President Donn Rowe released a statement asserting that the closings have "led to a more dangerous working environment, putting our members at greater risk of grave injury every day."
The decisions were made after a "detailed analysis" to ensure they were safe, Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci said.
"No inmates will be released early due to the closing of a facility, and we will not have to seek any temporary, double bunking variances from the State Commission of Correction," he said in a statement.